Yu Darvish made his stateside debut on Monday night. The 25-year-old, esteemed by some as the best Japanese pitcher ever, was bought by the Texas Rangers this past offseason for the lofty price of $111.7 million (a $51.7 million posting fee and a six-year, $60 million major league contact). Allowing five runs in less than six innings, Darvish’s debut performance was wholly disillusioning.
He was tagged early, giving up four runs to the Seattle Mariners, led by Darvish’s countryman Ichiro Suzuki, before recording two outs. Darvish settled down soon and lasted long enough—two outs into the sixth inning—for his new offense to save him with eight runs of their own. The Texas bullpen held on, their offense padded the lead to 11-5, and Darvish was handed a victory in his first major league game.
With a Bill James Game Score (available at Baseball-Reference) of 34, Darvish’s start was the fifth-worst (by that measure) since 1961 by a winning pitcher making his major league debut. He joins a group of 15 other starters who, since ’61, have recorded a win in their debut while also posting a Game Score under 40. (Information gathered using the Baseball-Reference Play Index.)
What does this have to do with the Detroit Tigers, you ask? Well, our former friend Eddie Bonine, who was around these parts for the better part of three years, happens to possess the worst Game Score on the list (though Anthony Vasquez tied his mark in a game last year for Seattle), a miserable 28. On June 14th, 2008, Bonine made his big league debut for Detroit against the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 5.1 innings and allowing six earned runs on nine hits, including four doubles and a home run. He also recorded two strikeouts on the day while issuing no walks.
It gets better. Bonine and the Tigers were able to come away victorious on the day thanks to their gracious opponent, Brad Penny, who gifted Detroit seven runs in 3.2 innings–less than two years before becoming their much disparaged fifth starter rental.